The Palestinian president appears to be backing down from his longstanding demand for Israel to halt West Bank settlement construction before peace talks resume.
Mahmoud Abbas told European diplomats Tuesday that he will resume talks after the UN votes on a Palestinian request for “nonmember state” status. A vote is expected in November.
Abbas made no mention of a settlement freeze, and officials said Abbas believes a freeze would no longer be necessary if he receives UN recognition of a state that includes all of the West Bank.
Peace talks have been at a hiatus for nearly four years, in large part due to Palestinian demands for a full halt to settlement construction and Israel’s refusal to consider such a freeze.
Israel instated a settlement freeze in November of 2009, in an effort to restart peace talks. “I hope that this decision will help launch meaningful negotiations to reach a historic peace agreement that would finally end the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians,” Netanyahu said at the time.
The freeze affected West Bank construction but not East Jerusalem, and lasted until September 2010. Subsequently, a freeze on all building in the West Bank and East Jerusalem became a Palestinian precondition for negotiations.
While UN recognition is largely symbolic, the Palestinians believe it will bolster them in future negotiations.